LinkedIn's Publisher Platform: Should You Use It?

Posted on April 3rd 2014

LinkedIn's Publisher Platform: Should You Use It?

ImageAt the end of February, LinkedIn announced that they would be expanding their popular Influencer program by opening their publishing platform to all users. From the LinkedIn announcement:

‘Starting today, LinkedIn is opening up our publishing platform to our members, giving them a powerful new way to build their professional brand. When a member publishes a post on LinkedIn, their original content becomes part of their professional profile, is shared with their trusted network and has the ability to reach the largest group of professionals ever assembled.’

Like all bloggers, I was interested, especially when in the same announcement, LinkedIn Head of Content Ryan Roslansky noted that the average Influencer post gets 31,000 views, 250 likes and 80 comments. Even if you can get a fraction of that, that’s great engagement and a powerful way to build your personal brand. I was keen to know more, but approached the announcement with a degree of scepticism at the same time.

Early Reports

The feedback I’ve read about the platform has been excellent. Well known social media identity Barry Feldman reported that one of his first posts received more than 10,000 views and was shared over 1,000 times. Andy Yeo, a strategic manager at Hootsuite, reported that one of his posts got more than 77,000 views, 800 likes and 200 comments. Todd Wheatland of King Content got more than 117,000 views, 2000 likes and 500 comments on one post. These are great numbers, and all three noted their amazement at the levels of engagement they’d received. Definitely it’s a huge endorsement for the new platform, getting such high figures early on, but still I had my doubts. There was a pattern to these reports, a common factor that alters the outlook of the new function for many of users. A significant part of the reach of all these posts was the base audience for each writer, the amount of connections they have to start with. This element plays a major part on how well your content is distributed through the network.

Distribution Algorithm

The three people mentioned above all have very high connection counts. All of them are well above the 500+ limit – Barry, as noted in a piece he wrote on the new platform, has 1, 736 connections. I took a look through the top posts on LinkedIn and all of them were either from Influencers or people with 500+ connections.

In the LinkedIn documentation it notes that your posts will be shared with your immediate network, but:

'Interactions such as likes, comments, and shares will distribute your content beyond your immediate network.'

So the idea is that people in your network give it a tick, then more people see it, beyond your connections. This being the case, having an established network is going to play a major role in how much reach your content gets – but how much of a role exactly? The only way to confirm this was to conduct my own test, see what reach my content would get.

Testing the Platform

I’ve now posted three pieces on LinkedIn, with view counts of 466, 403 and 690. Small numbers in comparison to the thousands of views reported by others. My connection count is 197 (I know, I’m working on it), so understandably I’m starting from a much lower platform to begin with, but for the purposes of this experiment, this is perfect, as I’m trying to find out how much influence the distribution algorithm plays in how content is shared. If you can get high readership despite not having a heap of connections, it’s possible that the network has a good method for detecting and rewarding good content by delivering it to a wider audience - though my experience has shown that’s not the case. But of course, that’s assuming I’m writing good content to begin with, the only way to fully confirm my theory would be to post one of the same articles on another platform, like Social Media Today.

My most recent piece was posted on LinkedIn and Social Media Today. The comparison is as follows.

LinkedIn – 687 views, 4 likes, 39 shares to social networks

Social Media Today – 537 views, 2 likes, 538 shares to social networks

As you can see, the piece performed much better on Social Media Today, showing that it was, at least to some degree, ‘quality content’, but due to my lower connection count on LinkedIn, I didn’t get the distribution that other users have experienced. This makes sense, of course, you can’t distribute your message without an audience to distribute it to (true of all social media platforms) but worth nothing for those considering posting on LinkedIn – it’s unlikely your blog is going to get major traction if you don’t have a high connection base to begin with. Your connection count, and engagement from those connections, will play a big role in how your content is spread.

Crowd-Sourcing as an Editorial Process

Effectively, the sharing algorithm is an editorial process in itself - this is no doubt why LinkedIn felt comfortable going with the ‘free-for-all’ option. The biggest concern of opening up the platform is users could end up inundated with poor content because it’s not filtered through a formal process. But that’s unlikely to happen. First off, the content that’s going to get high reach is going to come from those with large, established networks. People with a lot of connections are less likely to be publishing poor quality blogs – you don’t build a network without being able to demonstrate expertise and professionalism in the first place. Those users are a pretty safe bet, in terms of publishing content that will be of good quality and relevance to their audience. Second point, users who don't have large network on LinkedIn are unlikely to get alot of reach with their blogs. The ones that do spread beyond their first degree connections will need to get a lot of engagement to do so, which will only happen if the blog is extraordinary. It’s quite a clever system, though it does mean users need to build their LinkedIn network first, which, for most, means making a name for yourself outside of the LinkedIn platform.

Should You Use the LinkedIn Publishing Platform?

Effectively, the LinkedIn publishing platform is a true expansion of the Influencer program. This is pretty great in itself, the insights provided by industry thought leaders, like the three mentioned here, are highly valuable, and getting more of these experts to share their ideas and experiences can only benefit the LinkedIn user base. If you’re an influencer in your field, with the number of LinkedIn connections that come with such status, the publisher platform gives you an opportunity to expand your network and showcase your expertise. If you’re not an influencer, and you don’t have a network established, there are probably better options to build your personal brand before posting on LinkedIn. Guest blogging sites, like Social Media Today, remain a solid option for building your reputation and expanding your network. Once you’ve formed your personal brand and grown your LinkedIn connection base, blogging on the LinkedIn platform looks to be a good option for continued outreach and engagement. The process is easy to use and, as noted, the reach potential is great. You just need to beef up those connections first.

So, anyone want to connect?

adhutchinson

Andrew Hutchinson

Writer/Consultant, adh

Andrew Hutchinson is an internationally published author, award-winning blogger and social media consultant from Melbourne, Australia. He has more than 12 years experience working in media monitoring, helping clients locate, evaluate and action keyword occurrences in all forms of traditional and digital media. He's also a Hootsuite Ambassador for the APAC region and one of the 'Best Thinkers' on leading social media news website Social Media Today. If you're looking for a writer for your business, or advice on how to maximise your digital media presence, please go to www.andrewhutchinson.com.au for more information.

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Comments

jksmith86
Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 9:48AM

Andrew,


I also kept track of my first two Linkedin posts. The first reached just over 200 an the next just over 320. My Third posts (about using linked in publishing) was picked up and spread on Pulse.

My number for connection are only about 100 more than yours but my following increased rapidly with my third post. I am interested to see how this effects me 4 post.

Interestingly enough I also submitted it here to Social Media Today and it was not published so I cannot run a comparison.

I'm interested to see how your next post fairs on the publishing platform and even more interested to see what happens when all of Linkedin users are allowed to publish.

linkd.in/1i7SA4N

 

adhutchinson
Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 5:48PM

Thanks for reading, Justin,

Yeah, being picked up by The Pulse adds another variable to the mix that you can't rely on, but as noted in the piece, the results you had for your first two were similar to my first couple, which is relative to connection totals. Will be interesting to see your next one - and whether those numbers are maintained in future posts. 

The real test, as you've noted, will be when the platform is open to all users. While the sharing algorithm is quite smart, it will be interesting to see how it's tested with a lot more content going through it. No one, not even LinkedIn, would know for sure what's going to happen - but many will be watching to see what comes next.

MCCCODE
Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 1:24PM

i shared the same enthusiasm when the platform was made available and than started to take a back aproach to it.

i do not have the connectivity problems numbers are fine, however i started looking at certain publishers people that actually i think have a value on what they write about, and numbers where cathastophic, interaction on comments was poor. and started asking why?

My take on the LI publisher is simple, is a great tool, but it will become saturated and irrelevant if publishers are not well promoted and the articles are not interesting, trend that i think is already happening.

i liked your comparison on posting on SMT vs linkedin, and i think is the correct approach, small circles grow to bigger ones and when is time to face the flood is good to be whirpool (i am using g+ frequently and just saw Noah).

the strenght on authority comes in close relationships that you have nutured across the years, not by mere exposure of your content.

adhutchinson
Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 5:43PM

Hey Daniel,

Thanks for reading - yeah, there's still a lot of questions that only time will answer. One concern is that if people are incentivised to boost their connection numbers in order to achieve more reach for their blogs, that could reduce the importance of 'connections' as a measure of a person's professional standing. Another is that people may 'like' pieces not because they are good, but because of who they are written by - if the leader of a company posts a piece and you want to get on their radar, it's in your interests to 'like' it, right? Even if it's not the best quality piece.

The only way to know how all these things will impact the user experience is to see how it plays out, but early results have been good for those with good initial reach (through connections). Maybe the quality baseline will fall when the platform is open to all users, we'll have to wait and see. 

MCCCODE
Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 5:58PM

i have my comments about "connections" and to leave it to the open thought i will refere to this image

 

the image is fun no need for alarms

Lindaph
Posted on April 4th 2014 at 3:45AM

I was fortunate enough to have my second post picked up by pulse aNd it generated almost 7000 views, 50+ likes and about 35 comments. The trick is replicating this consistently now. 

adhutchinson
Posted on April 4th 2014 at 9:03PM

Thanks for reading, Linda - yep, I think that's a key point - or at least the key thing I wanted to highlight - it is possible to get huge reach via the LinkedIn platform, but it's not a certainty. Definitely, getting picked up by The Pulse will boost your figures - and that's always a possibity with each post - but consistent high numbers will more than likely rely on larger initial reach via your connections.  

greykite
Posted on April 4th 2014 at 1:59PM

Great article Andrew – it’s a subject close to my heart! You may also enjoy this discussion here on SMT along similar lines.

My experience of LinkedIn publishing is excellent. I was given privileges after three weeks on the wait-list and I published one post so far. It attracted 1,200 views and several comments inside 24 hours and has reached 1,600 views and 24 likes after a week. It’s been shared to social media 126 times (more than 100 to LinkedIn). I also received two direct messages from people wanting to continue the discussion offline – all great outcomes.

BTW I have just over 200 connections.

The same article on my own website hasn’t got anywhere near that – probably because I don’t have a following there. Anecdotal evidence from other LinkedIn members who are also publishers suggest that getting picked up by Pulse is key to big exposure, engagement and following.

Is it worth using? In my view, definitely – although you may like to read this article on the subject that I wrote for the CMI blog.

adhutchinson
Posted on April 4th 2014 at 9:07PM

Yep, had read your piece, Mike, good rundown of the platform. There's definitely great potential, and we won't know for sure what the impact of opening up the platform to all users will be till it happens. Definitely, as noted in the comments here, getting picked up by The Pulse will boost your figures - though that will probably be harder to do with more people posting. Maybe. We'll have to wait and see. Thanks for checking out my piece, Mike, always appreciate your feedback.

Abhijit Gupta
Posted on May 1st 2014 at 1:30AM

Fantastic post. Now days LinkedIn is also talented as a very good raised area in Social media part. Thanks for sharing such useful information.

Alex Bisset
Posted on June 26th 2014 at 11:41AM

Hi Andrew - I know there was some concern that LinkedIn would be flooded by low quality content, but you make a good point that the reach of that type of content would be extremely low. I think LinkedIn is a really great platform to utilize for users who are trying to gain influence and build a brand in a professional capacity. Those blogs might not have gained as much traction on other networks, but because LinkedIn is a professional network where people value creating a professional and knowledgeable persona, more people look to find new, unique and quality content to share with their network and establish themselves as an authority in the industry.

One issue I have with LinkedIn, however, is that it's not as easy to seek out articles outside of articles that have been liked, shared and commented on by people you are connected to. I think to establish yourself as a leader on a specific topic, you have to be able to share content from other sources. I've found an easy way to gather this information outside of LinkedIn is by using a content marketing platform called Opentopic, which helps me sort through and filter information and then allows me to publish directly to LinkedIn. Do you have other methods for this?

Daniel-Daniel
Posted on August 6th 2014 at 7:09PM

Hello everyone,
Sorry for a question that may sound naïve, but I never published (yet) on LinkedIn and I wonder how you do that : ie. where do you write / post your articles ? I don't see any integrated blog in LinkedIn. Is it necessary to write it on a blog or website and then publish on LinkedIn a simple a link to the article ?

Or do we have to use the sharing box on the top of the welcome page ?

Regarding the platform, does it provide a place to write and publish ?

Thanks.

Regards,

Daniel

greykite
Posted on August 15th 2014 at 7:26AM

Hi Daniel

Great question - LinkedIn doesn't make it easy for people. There's an integrated blog on LinkedIn, but ...

You can publish articles only after LinkedIn grants you "publishing privileges." At present, it's still rolling out privileges to the entire membership, but you can request early access by applying here:

http://specialedition.linkedin.com/publishing/

Once you have publishing privileges, LinkedIn emails you to confirm. You will then see a pencil icon in the "Updates" box on the homepage as well as the paperclip icon; clicking the pencil takes you to the publishing area.

If you need any more guidance, please connect or message me directly.